Jackson Browne, Loretta Lynn Among Top Americana Honorees

Lifetime Achievement

by Adam Gold – Rolling Stone

Known the world over for such hits as “Running on Empty,” “Somebody’s Baby” and “Doctor My Eyes,” and revered for classic albums the likes of Late for the Sky and The Pretender, Browne straddles the roots-y space between Sixties folk, Seventies song-craft and country-tinged classic AM radio rock that defines the Frankenstein DNA of Americana. His contributions to the Eagles, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Nico and Linda Ronstadtcatalogs alone — including penning “Take It Easy” and “These Days”; and not to mention basically teaching longtime friend Glenn Frey the discipline of songwriting — are a lifetime achievement unto themselves. Browne will receive the AMA’s “Spirit of Americana, Free Speech in Music Award,” which is presented in conjunction with the First Amendment Center.

“In Seventies post-Vietnam America, there was no album that captured the fall from Eden; the long, slow after-burn of the Sixties — its heartbreak, its disappointments, its spent possibilities — better than Jackson’s masterpiece Late for the Sky,” Bruce Springsteensaid of Browne’s 1974 signature LP in his 2004 speech inducting the singer into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “When those car doors slam at the end of the record, they still bring tears. And there was no more searching, yearning, loving music made for and about America at the time.”

Lynn will receive AMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. No stranger to such accolades — and a bona fide trailblazer with a canon boasting such indelible classics as “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” “Dear Uncle Sam” and “Rated X” — the 82-year-old living legend is already a Country Music Hall of Fame member and, like Browne, a Songwriters’ Hall of Fame inductee, as well. Lynn’s hard-worn, rags-to-riches life story was immortalized on celluloid in the classic 1980 Academy Award-winning biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter — based on her best-selling autobiography named after her most iconic song.

But the singer’s story didn’t end there. Lynn’s 2004 Jack White-produced, Grammy winning smash Van Lear Rose ignited a twilight career resurgence for the singer, who still tours to this day.  This makes Lynn’s third lifetime achievement award. She received at the 2010 Grammy Awards, in addition to receiving a Kennedy Center Honor in 2003.

Harlem-hailing, genre-journeying multi-instrumentalist Taj Mahal (nee Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) is being honored in AMA’s Lifetime Achievement category for Performance. The voracious musicologist has had an incalculable influence on the blues by way of integrating styles ranging from jazz, folk, country, gospel, rock, R&B and zydeco, to reggae, Latin, Carribean, African and beyond, over a 40-plus-year career. Fredericks, 72, has inspired and performed with heavy hitters like the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Etta James. A two-time Grammy winner, he first rose to fame in the early Sixties alongside Ry Cooder in California blues-folk outfit the Rising Sons.

Somewhat of a wild card among this class of recipients, but by no means less deserving of the honor, Grammy winning Texas accordion virtuoso Flaco Jimenez — whose country, rock and tejano punch card includes names the likes of Bob Dylan, Doug Sahm, Dr. John, Carlos Santana, The Mavericks, Dwight Yoakam, Buck Owens, Ry Cooder and the Rolling Stones — gets the AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist.

Previous Americana Lifetime Achievement honorees include Levon Helm, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Gram Parsons, John Fogerty, Gregg Allman, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, Wanda Jackson, Joe Ely, Jason and the Scorchers, Duane Eddy, John Mellencamp, Guy Clark, Cowboy Jack Clement, Joan Baez, John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sam Phillips and T Bone Burnett.

Lynn, Browne, Fredericks and Jimenez will be celebrated as part of the Americana Honors and Awards Ceremony September 17th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The event kicks off AmericanaFest 2014. Now in its 15th year, the festival and conference runs September 17th through 21st and will feature 160 acts at various Nashville venues. Appearing artists include the Avett Brothers, Lee Ann Womack, Marty Stuart, Rodney Crowell, Hayes Carll, Rhett Miller, Billy Joe Shaver, Tony Joe White, Robyn Hitchcock, Buddy Miller and more.